Pregnancy can be a very romantic time. We pick out cute baby clothes; select fashionable baby gear and nursery furniture; and imagine the happy times ahead with our little one. But, for many of us, new motherhood is not what we expected it would be. New motherhood is often comprised of many overwhelming emotional and physical changes for which we are unprepared. Books, movies, and even friends tend to paint a rosy picture of the postpartum period. However, for most women, the early weeks (or months) of parenting are not filled with blissful joy, but rather confusion, doubt, anxiety, and feelings of isolation. There is a lot of shame and guilt felt by women for whom things are not going along perfectly or “as planned.” It is important for new moms to realize that they are not alone in their feelings.
The followingÂ list of assumptions and realities is intended to give voice to many of the unspoken issues faced by new moms and break the silence surrounding whatÂ new motherhood is truly like for many of us.
Assumption: “I’ve been taking childbirth classes for weeks and I have a birth plan that details the birth I expect to have.”
Reality: While it’s important to prepare for childbirth, it is also important to realize that things don’t always go as planned. No matter what, the outcome of a healthy baby and a healthy mama are most important.
Assumption: “I’m going to fall instantly in love with my baby . . . I already have!”
Reality: Not everyone feels “maternal” or falls in love immediately. That is okay. New parents are dealing with many changes in their lives and they need to be given space and support as they adjust to their new role.
Assumption: “I will definitely breastfeed my baby for at least a year. I know if I put the baby to the breast soon after delivery, breastfeeding will be easy and natural for us.”
Reality: Despite best efforts and the support of lactation consultants, not every woman is able to breastfeed her baby. There may be latching issues, milk supply issues, or other health issues that interfere with nursing. Although many believe that a healthy baby depends on breastfeeding, healthy alternatives for baby may need to include pumping and formula. Again, the outcome of a healthy baby and a healthy mama are what matter most.
Assumption: “Only women with a history of mental health issues experience post-partum depression.”
Reality: 90 percent of women experience the baby blues–mood swings that begin and end within the first 10 days after delivery and 5-10% experience PPD (postpartum depression), in which some women begin to feel depressed several weeks or months after delivery. Depression that occurs within 6 months of childbirth may be postpartum depression, an illness that can be treated with therapy, support networks and medicines such as antidepressants.
Assumption: “My relationship with my friends won’t change after the baby arrives.”
Reality: While you will still keep your old friends, you won’t have as much time for phone chats or getting together. Some friends may feel disconnected from you as you embrace your new role as mother. Be prepared for relationships to change and evolve.
Assumption: “I don’t need a new moms’ group; I have plenty of friends with kids.”
Reality: Meeting weekly with other new mothers, who can truly empathize with you, is an invaluable resource during early motherhood. A new moms’ group offers information, resources, practical suggestions, reassurance, and social connection.
Kristen Kardos, MA Ed., and Kathy McGuigan, MSW, the co-founders of RI New Moms Connection, provide affordable, accessible pregnancy and new moms’ groups throughout Rhode Island. In “Tips for New Moms,” they share their knowledge, resources, and helpful ideas for moms just beginning their journey into parenthood or moms who may need a little refresher.
Editor’s Note: Although “Tips for New Moms” is written with the new mom in mind–to support women in their journey through motherhood–it is certainly not the authors’ intention to exclude dads. Every new parent will find their tips, resources, and insights helpful. I invite all moms and dads to share ideas on how they manage their new role as a parent with Kidoinfo in the comments below.